Dear colleagues and friends of the Novartis Foundation,
Imagine you travel across a rural district in Ghana and Mabel Tabbie Boateng, an engaged midwife shares with you that “What makes me proud is to be able to save a patient on the brink of death thanks to the use of telemedicine”. Nothing less is what our team recently heard and I invite you to watch Mabel on our short video.
This is a great example of how we take a people-centered approach and reimagine the way health services are delivered to expand access in low- and middle-income countries, where it remains a challenge for more than a billion people.
In the first quarter of this year, we reached three exciting milestones:
Successful integration and scale-up of telemedicine in Ghana
We proudly announced that the government and partners in Ghana are scaling up our telemedicine initiative nationwide. By connecting community health workers to specialist health professionals via a 24-hour teleconsultation center through mobile technology, more than half of all teleconsultations could be resolved directly by phone, including 31% that avoided a hospital referral. This is particularly important in remote rural communities, where access to care is limited. Six teleconsultation centers covering around six million people have been established in Ghana and full national coverage of telemedicine services is expected to be possible by 2019. In parallel, we are starting to discuss the transfer of this successful telemedicine model to other geographies. Watch our video here.
This is a great example of how digital technology can pave the way toward improved access to quality care, social equity and economic growth in low- and middle-income countries. We are working with policy makers and government leaders to integrate initiatives like this into the local health systems. Only with the support of enlightened and sustained government leadership, can we help to transform and strengthen healthcare systems.
Joining forces to fight leprosy
We joined the newly created Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy. With more than 200,000 people newly diagnosed every year, it was time to join forces with the other main players in the leprosy community and take coordinated action. The partnership aims at accelerating progress toward a world without leprosy by coordinating research, technical assistance, advocacy and fundraising.
As you can see, leprosy elimination remains high on our agenda, and it is encouraging to see the renewed commitment by the Novartis CEO, Vas Narasimhan. “For over three decades, Novartis and the Novartis Foundation have remained dedicated to leprosy elimination. We need to accelerate progress in the fight against this ancient disease following a common vision of zero leprosy." Besides finalizing our multi-country LPEP program to prevent leprosy in contact persons of recently diagnosed patients and further developing our digital tool to accelerate leprosy diagnosis, we are also working with research partners to develop a molecular diagnostic test that can allow us to diagnose leprosy before nerve damage occurs and to start treatment before further transmission occurs.
Urban hypertension initiative, Better Hearts Better Cities plans to cover one million people this year
Our urban hypertension initiative Better Hearts Better Cities is strengthening urban cardiovascular health ecosystems. Already in its first full year of operations, Better Hearts Better Cities is scheduled to cover a million people across the three locations. In Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, the skills of the urban health providers have been strengthened to better prevent, diagnose and treat hypertension, and a digital hypertension registry is being rolled out. In Dakar, Senegal, the team has developed a national operational plan for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases with the Ministry of Health. Our implementation partners, PATH and Intrahealth International now started to implement this plan with a first wave of interventions in Dakar Ouest. In São Paulo, Brazil, we are working closely with the Secretaries of Health, Sports and Education to launch community education and screening activities.
With all these exciting developments in our programmatic, research and policy work at the Foundation, I would like to thank all of our partners, supporters and friends for their invaluable contributions and support to the Novartis Foundation mission to drive innovative solutions that improve health of low-income populations in a sustainable way at scale.